Mostly-acoustic Detroit band Custard Flux is back with their fourth full-length album (and their third to be named after an element), Phosphorus. Following 2020’s fantastic Oxygen, Phosphorus doubles down on some of the band’s previous innovations. The songs are longer and more complex, and electric instrumentation is integrated fluidly.
This is also Custard Flux’s longest release to date, and by a wide margin. At 80 minutes in length, it’s nearly 20 minutes longer than their debut and almost twice as long as either of their last two records. And though the melodies and overall ideas remain as strong as ever, this album isn’t without its excesses. There is a lot of bloat, with certain ideas being repeated over and over for much too long.
I’ve run across a lot of quirky genre descriptions on Bandcamp. Mellow Beast bill themselves as “wizard rock;” Louison’s latest album was described as “cyberprog;” and That 1 Guy has called his music “experimental ‘earthshaking future funk’ from the future maybe.” Despite their oddness, I could vaguely imagine what those might sound like. The UK-based quintet The Mighty Orchid King,on the other hand, dubs their music “mushroom-prog.”
Reading the phrase “mushroom-prog,” my mind immediately went to psilocybin and psychedelics–a not-unreasonable leap, if you ask me. However, reading the band’s description of this album, they intended that phrase much more literally. This album tells the story of a mushroom king and the spirits of the dead things he has consumed. It’s quite a clever concept which explicitly draws inspiration from John Milton’s Paradise Lost and carries a strong environmentalist message.
The band says they aimed to create “an entangled musical ecology,” and Mycelium Music Volume I is a veritable clonal colony of amazing music. The album has an impressive degree of sonic cohesion and continuity, and the individual songs flow together in brilliant, creative ways.
Artist: Stewart Clark | Album:Journeys | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp
Stewart Clark draws noticeably from the classic prog giants, most obviously Yes and Genesis. The music is rich and grand, and though the playing is hardly flashy, the songs are creatively and thoughtfully structured. The folk elements are especially nice. Some cuts do drag on a bit, but this is an overall enjoyable release.
Band: Cyril | Album:Amenti’s Coin – Secret Place Pt. II | Genre: Progressive rock | Bandcamp
If you’re looking for some well-made progressive rock in the vein of acts like Transatlantic or The Flower Kings, these guys aren’t a bad choice. It’s highly melodic with a lot of strong instrumental performances. The band does occasionally veer into overwrought balladry, and I can’t say there’s anything particularly novel being said here. Despite that, sometimes you just want some lush, classic-style prog.
After the better part of two months of writing nothing, I’m back! The first half of January was all my best-of-2021 stuff, after which things got really busy at work, and then Pokémon Legends: Arceus came out (that took up and continues to take up a lot of my free time). But anyway, you don’t come here for my personal goings-on; you come here for reviews of albums that came out several months ago in an unpopular music genre!
For the record, I was actually pretty quick with covering this one. Jethro Tull has put out their first album since 2003! (Though their Bandcamp seems to ignore their 2003 release, The Jethro Tull Christmas Album, as it states this is their first album in “over two decades,” which signals that Ian Anderson considers 1999’s Dot Com to be the last proper Tull album.)
Artist: Waqas Ahmed | Album:A Perpetual Winter | Genre: Progressive metal | Bandcamp
This is a fun little EP from Pakistani-born, Romania-based guitarist Waqas Ahmed. It’s a bit cheesy, but in such a small dose it’s pretty enjoyable. Sometimes, I’m just in the mood for some flashy guitar work over a solid instrumental backing. A Perpetual Winter is strongly reminiscent of Dream Theater, so if that’s your cup of tea, I’d recommend this release as well.
Band: Chafouin | Album:Toufoulcan | Genre: Krautrock, Progressive rock, Math rock | Bandcamp
Toufoulcan overall has a stark sound, relying on ragged (mostly) clean guitars and odd, imposing riffs and rhythms. The mood varies from sinister to sunny, but those extremes never feel out of place. Synth embellishments flesh out the sound, and Chafouin utilizes repetition well to give each song a clear sense of build and direction. The individual tracks tend to be fairly short, and that adds a strong feeling of forward momentum.
One moment this album is brimming with squirmy, atonal synthesizers with eerie vocal arrangements, and the next it’s mellow, artful pop rock. Despite hailing from Chicago, there’s a very British sense of weirdness to Cheer-Accident’s work, most comparable to the inimitable Cardiacs. Strains of post-punk and folk merge seamlessly with progressive and pop rock to create something truly distinctive.
Band: Dai Kaht | Album: Dai Kaht II | Genre: Zeuhl | Bandcamp
I like Magma a lot. They’re one of my favorite bands, and I’m positive I’ll eventually do a Deep Dive entry on them. However, their shadow is nearly inescapable in the world of zeuhl (outside Japan, at least). Dai Kaht are a Finnish act who draw a huge amount of influence from Magma. Their sound is more guitar-centric than Magma ever were. On a technical level, the musicianship and compositions are complex. For all its oddness, it’s surprisingly catchy, and it is somewhat unusual for a zeuhl act to have guitar as its main instrument. But in the end, this release mostly sounds like an updated version of Attahk. If you like zeuhl, give it a listen, but don’t expect anything groundbreaking.
Much of the non-metal featured on this site has its roots planted firmly in the years of 1971-73. That fact is neither inherently good nor inherently bad, but it does lead to the prevalence of certain tropes and trends. Perséide’s roots extend a few years further back. Instead of harkening to prog giants like Genesis or Yes, their music stems most obviously from late ‘60s psychedelia and proto-prog, a la The Pretty Things or The United States of America.
This Quebecois quintet is not wrapped entirely in the past, though. On Parmi les arbres (Among the Trees), modern touches of indie rock are present. These influences make the music feel like a vibrant descendent of ‘60s psychedelia, rather than a rehash. Continue reading “Album Review: Perséide – Parmi les arbres”→
Welcome to entry number two in my Deep Dive series, where I look at the full studio discographies and histories of some of the major names in progressive rock and progressive metal. It’s here that I highlight output beyond an act’s “classic” releases.
For those who don’t feel like reading this massive entry, I’ve included a TL;DR and ranking of albums at the end. I’m opting to explore albums chronologically, as opposed to a ranked-list format. The context in which albums were made is important, and this is an element often missed in a ranked-list.
For this second entry, I’ve opted to cover Jethro Tull. Tull are best known for their pair of early ‘70s masterpieces, Aqualung and Thick as a Brick, as well as winning the inaugural Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Grammy over Metallica in 1989. But beyond those few common knowledge highlights, as well as the notable quirk of being the best-known rock act with a flautist, this band’s discography holds an impressive breadth of music, ranging from blues to folk to synthpop to world music.
I really love Jethro Tull. My love of Jethro Tull is so deep, in fact, that the first email address I ever made was a rather blatant reference to said fandom. (And that Yahoo address is still in use 14 years later, as well as a very similarly-named Hotmail account.) In high school, I made it my mission to collect a physical copy of every studio release from Jethro Tull. I still have all those CDs (including both the US and UK versions of Benefit), as well as several vinyl records, which I acquired both from my mom’s old record collection and from my own purchases. I also managed to see Jethro Tull in concert in 2011. Even then, Ian Anderson (plus Martin Barre and the other motley musicians) could still put on a hell of a show.
Despite my deep fondness for this group, I’ll do my best to be as objective as one can be when reviewing music. They did put out some crap albums, and I’ll be honest about other albums’ shortcomings. Continue reading “Deep Dive: Jethro Tull”→